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In “Professor Dowell’s Head,” a 1925 science fiction novel by Alexander Belyayev that was a must read when I was a kid, a dying scientist bequeaths his body to a colleague who then revives just the heart and the head. In this form, Professor Dowell lives on but hates it. The life of British physicist Stephen Hawking, who died March 14, had been almost like fictional Dowell’s since the 1980s, and he cherished it.

Hawking’s scientific achievements are too obscure for most people, even though he was great at popularizing his work. “A Brief History of Time,” his work on cosmology, sold 10 million copies but has been described as “the most popular book never read.”

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